Colts Linebacker Burning Questions Heading Into 2019 Offseason Program
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INDIANAPOLIS – We are less than a week away from the Colts reporting back to work.
The start of the offseason program takes place Monday, April 15, with players beginning the start of eight weeks in Indianapolis.
So, it’s time to pick back up our ‘burning questions’ series on 1070TheFan.com
Here are our burning questions for the linebackers heading into the 2019 offseason program:
1. Where is the next step for All-Pro Darius Leonard?
Let’s first acknowledge the crazy, yet more than acceptable, label being used to describe Darius Leonard now.
Leonard quickly became a household name last year after recording 19 tackles in his second career game.
If we want to nitpick Leonard’s amazing rookie season, there are a couple of things to focus on going into 2019.
First, Leonard wants to play at a little bigger weight than he did in 2018. He wants to be more around 225 pounds, after playing in the 215-218 range last year.
Second, Chris Ballard has mentioned taking another step in the passing aspect of the game as something Leonard can improve on.
“Darius is as driven, unlike many I’ve ever been around,” Ballard says. “The one thing about him is when he tells you he wants to be the best, he absolutely wants to be the best so he’s always looking for an edge he can get.
“There’s some things pass coverage that I think coming from a lower level (college wise) missing the OTA practices last year, some fundamental things he can do better. I think he can get stronger and those are all things he will work on this offseason in OTAs and into the season.”
Remember, as Ballard points out, Leonard did not participate in last year’s spring workouts due to a draft-workout hamstring injury.
2. Is Anthony Walker the definite MIKE of the future?
The Colts had some definite interest in C.J. Mosley in free agency, but that price tag just got a tad too high.
Does that mean they are looking for an upgrade alongside Darius Leonard?
I’m not ready to say that. I look at the interest in Mosley as intrigue on upgrading your overall defensive talent during the free agency period, and not so much because they are worried about Walker.
In 2018, Walker was a key component for the Coltls.
When the Colts struggled late in the season against the Giants, not having Walker on the field was a biggest reason why.
The change in defensive schemes had Walker trim some weight and he proved that he could be a starting linebacker in this league, matching the mental component that the Indy staff always liked in their 5th Round pick in 2017.
Even though the Colts do not have gobs of depth at linebacker, it would be a bit surprising to see this team draft one early on, because of not believing in Walker.
3. What about the other young linebackers entering Year Two?
At times last season, the Colts relied on Skai Moore, Zaire Franklin and Matthew Adams for starting-like roles.
It was Adams who eventually settled into the SAM linebacker spot, a role that was really only used in obvious running situations.
While the Colts do not have a ton of great talent at linebacker, mostly using just two backers throughout the course of a game last year was more a result from today’s NFL.
Moore, who started in Week One with Walker still getting back from a Training Camp injury, bounced around the practice squad and 53-man roster.
Franklin saw some action early in the year, but was relegated to mostly special teams once Adams emerged as the third linebacker.
Opportunities are there for these guys to cement their roles as the ‘next men up’ behind Leonard and Walker.
Veteran Najee Goode, who didn’t play a single defensive snap in the final 11 games of the season, remains a free agent.